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These kids set up a free neighborhood pantry for pets and people

Posted: 9:39 AM, Sep 26, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-26 18:35:13-04
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A simple cabinet stands on Wooster Road in Rocky River — and what’s inside is helping people in the community every single day.

The idea for the cabinet came from the youth group at Rockport United Methodist Church , who knew they wanted to help their neighbors and decided this was the best way.

They never expected it to be such a success.

“We’ve all seen people come to the cabinet. It is unlocked, it is 24 hours a day. If it’s 3 in the morning and you’re embarrassed, you can come to the cabinet,” said Kira Holchin, youth pastor at Rockport UMC. “We want you to have what you need.”

The cabinet is full of household essentials folks need everyday — dish soap, laundry detergent, toilet paper, baby bottles and wipes.

And, one of the most popular items that flies off the shelves is actually pet food.

The dog and cat kibble is collected, bagged, and donated by Mary Lou Smith and her son Justin, who run the charity Wally’s Purrfect Doggy Bags.

The idea for them came after their dog Wally died a few years ago, and they didn’t want his leftover food to go to waste. Smith has teamed up with Paws & Effect Pet Grooming in Rocky River to help collect the donations.

“We’re just so excited to hear that people can keep their pets and be able to feed them and it helps the animals and it helps us feel good, like we’re paying it forward as well,” Smith said.

The cabinet is emptied by people in need every day, every week. And refilled by little hands just as often.

For Fairview Park high school junior Jack Munro, creating the cabinet has been a learning experience all around.

“We thought this would be a great idea to give people some of those necessities that people need that they might have trouble affording,” Munro said.

And the lessons continue for the kids, even after the cabinet was vandalized. Tape holds the broken pieces together. Holchin said it was an experience for the children to learn empathy for whoever did it.

“We’re getting just as much out of this cabinet as people are taking out of the cabinet and for me, that’s huge,” Holchin said.

If you’d like to help out, you can drop off pet food donations to Paws & Effect Pet Grooming in Rocky River.

Donations of household items can be dropped off to Rockport United Methodist Church at 3301 Wooster Road in Rocky River. There is also an Amazon wish list if you’re interested in contributing to help keep the cabinet stocked.